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Medicaid expansion proponents losing patience

Posted at 11:40 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 20:25:23-04

Another day in the Statehouse is ticking by without a public proposal to provide healthcare coverage for Idahoans in the "gap," leading to more outrage from proponents.

Once more the House side of the Rotunda was filled with demonstrators petitioning lawmakers to cover 78,000 Idahoans that make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to get a subsidy from Your Health Idaho. 

"They may put off things, or they may not be able to get into the primary care physicians office, or they may not even go to the emergency room for fear of the cost of medical care," said Dr. Po Huang, an emergency care doctor.

Lawmakers have been working behind closed doors for several weeks on a plan, but as of yet nothing has emerged for public consideration. The apparent silence is frustrating to Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise. This came to a head Tuesday morning after the House state affairs committee - on which Wintrow serves - debated lawmaker parking privileges for a half hour.

"We should be talking about the hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails we are getting to cover people in the gap," she said. "We should not be talking about parking spaces that benefit individual legislators when it's all about walking to the Capitol."

So far, House Speaker Scott Bedke says there are two proposals being discussed. Both would take $5 million from the tobacco tax fund and support community health centers that provide minimal medical services to some in the gap population. Plan A would then create an interim committee to study further options the Legislature could take next session. Plan B would allow the Dept. of Health and Welfare to create a program utilizing federal waiver dollars to give coverage to a greater portion of the gap population.